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CUNY Juvenile Justice System Reform Discussion

CUNY Juvenile Justice System Reform Discussion


Write a response: –  ” Throughout the chapter it is evident that there have been many changes within the juvenile justice system. Much of these changes have occurred to ensure the safety of the youth that is involved with the juvenile justice system. I was able to learn about status offenses and what constitutes a status offense rather than a crime, and many of the differences and similarities between the juvenile system and the adult criminal justice system. For example, the juvenile court system like criminal court focuses on the level of the individuals’ offense and other similar factors; the outcomes of the offenses can be categorized as nominal,conditional, and custodial dispositions. As discussed in the chapter, a difference between both systems is that the juvenile system tends to focus more on the offender rather than the offense, which can be seen as a way in which the system attempts to deter adolescents from criminality.  I believe that juvenile court proceedings should have stayed less formal than criminal proceedings because at the end of the day juvenile court is dealing with children and many can be easily intimidated by the process. At the same time maybe the experience with a more formal court proceeding can assist in deterring them from crime. In addition, when dealing with juvenile cases there are several outcomes that can take place during intake, most of these outcomes are designed to divert the youth to a better path away from criminality, it all depends on the seriousness of the crime. In relevance to criminality, the JJDP establishing that youths should not have contact with adults convicted of crimes when being held in facilities, reminded me of the differential association theory. This theory states that people learn criminal behavior through their environment and through those they interact with. When reading this chapter there were several thoughts and questions that came up for me. For example, I wonder if and when juvenile court judges make a decision regarding a juvenile, especially those who are of a very young age, they are required to consult psychologists who specialize in children behavior? Also, I do wonder how successful the goal of parens patriae has been over the years, for example how many of those involved in the juvenile justice system have actually been deterred from crime during their adulthood years? Parens patriae reminded me of a discussion in a previous course, sociology of the family, where we discussed the different institutions relating to family, the government being one of them.”

“The first chapter focuses on providing an overview of the juvenile justice system as well as its historical roots, defining the types of juvenile offenders, and following this up by providing a comparison with the adult criminal courts. An interesting section of this chapter was looking at parens patriae and its involvement in the modern juvenile justice system. According to authors Merlo and Benenkos (2019) parens patriae originated in England by the king which means “father of the country” (p.4). The idea of parens patriae, according to Merlo and Benekos, alludes to the fact that the state eventually gains more ownership (in a sense) of juveniles as they get older in society leading to rehabilitative options for juveniles. The idea of parens patriae as noted by the authors still plays a role in the juvenile system here in the United States. The interesting factor was how the rehabilitative aspect was put to the test in modern society with the “get tough” movement. Merlo and Benenkos (2019) noted that the get tough movement clashed with the rehabilitative nature of parens patriae as accountability and a focus on punishment took the forefront. However this “get tough” movement would take a backseat as the juvenile justice system returned to the focus of rehabilitation. An example of this is presented by Merlo and Benekos (2019) as the deinstitutionalization of the status offenders. Merlo and Benekos (2019) defined status offenses as “acts committed by juveniles that are not illegal if committed by an adult” (p.9). Before deinstitutionalization juveniles who were status offenders would be put into facilities along with other offenders who were delinquents. According to Merlo and Benekos (2019) grouping status offenders with delinquents in the pursuit of a get tough attitude for juveniles has a more negative impact than a positive one. The impact noted by the authors is juveniles being stigmatized or being exposed to the influence of more serious juvenile offenders which in turn may lead to more criminal behavior. However it is important to note that deinstitutionalization is not a perfect solution as there are some downsides like an increase in juveniles entering the system even if they are not held in facilities or being relabeled. Although no one solution is perfect it is essential to have a balance between holding juveniles accountable and providing the proper assistance when required. Those juveniles who commit serious offenses or chronically commit offenses should be held accountable which is why I think having tough options are important but it is also important to keep in mind that some juveniles are in need of guidance. This therefore creates a need for both rehabilitative and punitive measures. “


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